I recently reported (HERE) that veteran actress, author and now producer Victoria
Rowell recently joined the list of well-known industry people who have started
Kickstarter campaigns to raise money for projects they are currently
Rowell’s case, the campaign is for a soap opera spoof television pilot she’s
currently developing based on her bestselling novel, The Rich and The Ruthless.
week, Ms. Rowell reached out to me to talk to me and, in extension, to S & A
readers about her campaign, why she has decided to use crowdfunding as a way
to finance her pilot, and her opinions on the criticisms of celebrities using
Kickstarter for their projects.
You had any second thoughts before starting your Kickstarter campaign because
of the flak so many celebrities have gotten, like Whoopi Goldberg, Zach Braff
and especially Spike Lee for using Kickstarter to fund their projects?
first I want to say that I want to thank for your interest in The Rich and the Ruthless, my maiden
voyage as an executive producer, and to everyone who has supported me and wanted
to see me back in this genre. We have the prefect product for them. We have a fabulous
cast and crew and we’re very excited with director Carl Seaton who directed me and Angela Basset on a film a few years ago, Of Boys and Men, and I always wanted to work with him again.
But to answer your question, no, no, no, of course not.
First, I know who I am. I am a minority female artist and I’m looking at all of
the possibilities out there in terms of getting projects made. As you know, I
worked in network television for many years and, of course, I went to network television
first. I went to predominantly black entertainment as well, I pitched to Tyler Perry’s company and I pitched to Oprah before they put on their own soap
operas. I definitely have a following and I believe that I have to exhaust all
the possibilities that are out there and Kickstarter is just another
This brings up the question, why did you think that the networks or producers didn’t have
the vision to pick up your project? What is it that they are looking for?
I can distinctly answer that for you. You ask Ridley Scott why he sometimes has to
wait 25 years to make a movie. And you can ask any number of luminaries in the entertainment
industry like Wynton Marsalis and
why he has recordings stockpiled by his label that haven’t been released. This
is the age-old gripe that artisans have had, like, forever. So when you figure
out this entertainment business then you let me know.
Weiner the executive producer and creator of Mad Men. He went everywhere. He begged everyone, and he worked for HBO, and he tried to convince network TV
execs and anyone who would listen: “Look I’ve got this great project called Mad
Men,” and he would be laughed out of their offices over and over and
over again. And when he wound up on AMC,
people thought that was madness. But he went to where they accepted him; and
whether Kickstarter winds up being the home for us or not remains to be seen.
But I’m willing to try and you have to start somewhere. It’s called courage.
you would agree that the old models such as network television are broken
relics of the past, doomed for extinction?
You know, I think that network television will still be around
for a long time still.
I’m not sure about that.
But what is so wonderful is that there are all these other
opportunities, all these other platforms from Netflix to Hulu to web
series on the internet, and beyond. We have film houses that are producing their
own movies and completely cutting out the middleman. It’s infinite in terms of
how we’re watching television. People are developing their own channels and
putting their own content on them that people want to watch. So I think there
are tremendous gains for having this frontier of independent programming.
read an article recently in the New York Times which said that television networks
are losing that coveted 18-49 year old audience in droves and that they can’t
get them back, and that number will only just increase as time goes on, which says
to me that it’s a dinosaur.
So when you look at a new show like Orange is the New Black and that Kevin Spacy/David Fincher show House
of Cards which garnered four Emmy
nominations on Netflix, and when you look at what Mark Johnson is doing on Breaking
Bad, you can see that there’s a lot of opportunity out there. And when you
look at PBS, which, unlike the major
networks, has had an increase in audience viewers this season, with shows like Downton Abbey, and now they’re heavily
into production with new projects; so, yes, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to be
an executive producer creating these projects.
you would say that this is an avenue now for independent black filmmakers and producers, instead of trying to go to a studio or a production company or a TV network to
get a project made?
Well I want to say that it’s the new frontier for
everyone. It’s not just a black or white issue, though it is extremely difficult
for African Americans to get projects off the ground. It takes a tremendous
amount for fortitude to get it done. Unfortunately there is a misunderstanding
of the importance of our stories being told even if they’re checkerboard.
By that I mean, a story dealing with someone with a
checkerboard past; and if you have an African American who is the lead character it’s coined as a “black story” and it can be potentially pigeonholed. But having
said that, what is available today is fantastic and we’re just not talking about
the domestic market. There is
international interest in all entertainment. I just took a meeting with a production company headquartered in Scandinavia.
There is tremendous interest and people are going to where there is interest and
glad you bought that up because one regular issue we deal with is the fact
that black filmmakers and producers should be more aggressive about entering
the overseas market. And yet whenever we do, we always get some people who say things
like “They don’t care us po’ black folk
over there. I’m just going to sit in my rocking chair on the porch ‘til kingdom
come”. I mean what’s with this attitude of limitations?
Look, we’ve all heard and it’s a total myth. It is not
true. In fact, this is a form of what you could call mental enslavement. I’ve
never prescribed to that as an artisan. That is nonsense.
Finally, what’s your secret for being a survivor in the business?
This does not happen by accident. I am a hard worker. I absolutely,
emphatically, campaign to go on auditions that are not necessarily written for
black actors. I’ve even worked in roles that weren’t even written for the same
gender originally. I convinced casting people and producers to see it in
another way. Our stories are international stories and we are an international
people. For example I was very fortunate to take a meeting with PBS recently to discuss the possibility
of my memoir The Women Who Raised Me
for a multi-part mini-series on the network. That was very exciting.
But as a minority I knew that I needed to start at the
root, so I wrote the book for The Rich
and The Ruthless first, but continued to work out my script throughout prior
to the book and post book, and now we’re at the juncture where we want to shoot
the pilot, which is like Soapdish
meets The Office meets 30 Rock. That is the tone. It is
about a black-owned soap opera with multi-ethnic cast that struggles to stay on
the air, which they do through some nefarious behavior (laughs) behind the
scenes, and we get to see this behavior not only on set but off set as well.
To contribute to Ms Rowell’s Kickstarter campaign, which has 16 days to go, $47,000 to go, click HERE or within the widget after the video pitch below: